It’s 1860 and the ‘century of humiliation’ is underway: China is forced to open up to the opium trade and Hong Kong has been handed over to London. British troops slaughter thousands and burn the emperor’s Old Summer Palace to the ground.
Today it’s Britain that goes to Beijing cap in hand. A Chinese firm is putting almost £2 billion ($2.4 bn) into redeveloping London’s Royal Albert Dock, from where imperial ships once set off, and partly financing the UK’s largest infrastructure project, a nuclear power plant in Somerset. George Osborne, former chancellor, put it bluntly: ‘China is what it is. And we have to either be [there] or be nowhere.’
The average Briton is likely unaware of this historical reversal. The average Chinese person is very much aware. As a factory worker in Guangdong told the journalist Alec Ash, who collected vox-pops for this issue: ‘I hope [China] will become even stronger, so that in the future no-one will bully us, like your country did a hundred years ago.’ But what is China really planning for the 21st century?
We have sought to answer this judiciously. There are more than enough ‘red scare’ stories in the Western press that treat this nation of over one billion people as a monolith. But nor should the prospect of a nationalistic superpower with a powerful betrayal narrative fill internationalists with much hope.
Elsewhere, there is a moving cartoon history of the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war and, in the Long Read, gay women from Equatorial Guinea vividly and unflinchingly tell Trifonia Melibea Obono their experiences of forced motherhood and ‘family values’.
Yohann Koshy for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Since 2016, at least a million people have been sent to re-education camps as part of the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uyghur people. Yohann Koshy speaks to anthropologist Darren Byler to find out what is going on in China’s northwest province.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner and has become deeply involved with the continent’s politics in recent years. This has not been without its controversies. Christine Mungai reflects on the past, present and future of the relationship between these two powerhouses.
What’s happening to human numbers – and what should happen – is a hot topic again. Mohan Rao and Sara Parkin go head to head.
Bashar al-Assad’s regime has laid out a blueprint for the reconstruction of Syria. But this rebuilding works towards a social-cleansing agenda, say Syrian architects and urban planners Hani Fakhani and Abou Zainedin. They spoke with Alessio Perrone.